COVID-19 testing ramps up at two area hospitals

  • The front parking lot of the Baystate Franklin Medical Center is set up for COVID-19 testing on a referral basis. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/26/2020 12:22:05 PM
Modified: 4/26/2020 12:22:01 PM

Area hospitals are ramping up testing for COVID-19 as other cities and towns across the nation complain that they still don’t have enough.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center will test a person for the novel coronavirus after being referred by a doctor. Heywood Healthcare, owner of Athol Hospital, said its Tully Walk-In Care Center will do testing without a referral but the person must present certain symptoms.

According to a spokesperson for Baystate Health, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield will continue testing under a white tent near the hospital’s front entrance.

People cannot just walk up and get tested, the spokesperson said. Instead, someone who thinks they might have contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus should call their doctor or visit urgent care and get a referral. Then, an appointment will be made for testing.

Originally, it was only Baystate medical practice patients — patients whose health care professionals were a member of the Baystate system — who could get tested under the tent, but now anyone can be tested if they have a referral.

People do need to call their doctor or visit an urgent-care facility to get an order to be tested. The change is that originally it was for Baystate Medical Practice patients only, but now it is by appointment for anyone with a doctor’s note — it does not have to be a Baystate doctor.

The spokesperson said testing is done by appointment only, so even with a referral, a person cannot just walk in to the tent for a test.

In mid March, Baystate was testing patients who presented with symptoms in the emergency room. If someone was sick, but not sick enough for urgent care, they stayed in a unit in the hospital specific to people who were tested for COVID-19. When the results came back and they tested positive, they were either held in that unit at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, sent home to recover or the critically ill were sent to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

A few weeks later, Baystate Franklin Medical Center raised the tent outside its front entrance and started testing people who were referred by their doctors, who were affiliated with the hospital.

On Friday, Baystate Health reported that Baystate Franklin Medical Center had zero confirmed cases and eight people were under investigation.


In Athol, Dawn Casavant, vice-president of external affairs for Heywood Healthcare, owner of Athol Hospital, said its Tully Walk-In Care Center is seeing both patients who need urgent care and those who believe they have COVID-19 and want to be seen and tested.

“We’re seeing possible COVID-19 patients on one side and other patients on the other side,” Casavant said. “People can be tested with or without a doctor’s referral, but if they don’t have a referral, they have to present with certain symptoms and meet certain criteria before they are given a test.”

She said that criteria would include having some of the symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever.

“A physical assessment is done before someone is tested,” she said. “We don’t just ask questions.”

She said once a patient is tested, just like in Greenfield, the test is sent to a lab and results are known within three days at the maximum.

“This is important information,” Casavant said. “Labs have gotten much quicker”

In the beginning of the outbreak in early March, the two hospitals could wait as many as five days before results returned.

Casavant said Athol has also started a “nurse advice hotline” so people can call and inquire about symptoms they might be having but because they are minor, don’t want to call a doctor. She said people should call 978-630-6200.

Both the Greenfield and Athol hospitals say people should continue social distancing practices, wear masks in public, wash hands at least once an hour or more and stay away from people who are sick. Those who are having any symptoms or think they’ve been in contact with someone who has symptoms should self-quarantine.

“People need to stay vigilant,” Casavant said. “We all need to do our part to suppress this thing and the volume it causes in hospitals.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or

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